Ethanol group says Cruz softening on ethanol

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By Ed Tibbetts, Quad-City Times

A group backing the Renewable Fuel Standard is hailing remarks by Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz in western Iowa, saying he’s softening his stance on ethanol supports.

However, the Cruz campaign says his position hasn’t changed.

America’s Renewable Future said Wednesday that Cruz committed to keep the RFS through 2022, citing an answer he gave to a questioner Tuesday night in Cherokee in northwest Iowa.

“While not perfect, this is a big step forward by Sen. Cruz,” said Eric Branstad, state director for the group, which has been critical of the Texas senator.

Branstad said the remarks are evidence Cruz is listening to Iowans.

However, a spokeswoman for Cruz’s campaign said Wednesday the comments in Cherokee are no different from what Cruz has said in the past.

“Sen. Cruz’s position has been consistent from the beginning, which includes a five-year phase-out of the mandate,” Catherine Frazier said.

The back and forth is the latest in the ongoing controversy over the Texas senator’s stand on ethanol, which has become more of an issue as the Iowa caucuses approach.

Cruz increasingly is being asked about the issue, and Tuesday night in Cherokee a woman noted the RFS is due to expire in 2022, according to a recording posted by America’s Renewable Future.

Cruz responded: “You rightly noted that the RFS is scheduled to expire in 2022. When I said we should phase it out, I said it should be a five-year phase-out. A phase-out from 2017 to 2022 is five years. I do believe there should be a gradual phase-out because there have been investment-backed expectations.”

The pro-ethanol group says Cruz hasn’t always backed a phase-out. They say he’s co-sponsored other repeal bills, including a 2013 measure that would have ended the RFS immediately. But Cruz’s camp pointed to a 2014 bill he sponsored that would have phased out the RFS over five years.

The RFS, which requires a minimum amount of renewable fuels to be blended with the nation’s fuel supply, was created by a 2005 law, then amended in 2007. The law sets goals for renewable use through 2022.

Cruz also wrote an op-ed for the Des Moines Register that criticizes the government for rules that limit the sale of higher-level ethanol blends. The pro-ethanol group says those remarks also represent substantial progress.

Cruz is leading in some Iowa polls, but he’s increasingly been targeted on a host of issues, including renewable fuels.

He has argued the government and lobbyists in Washington are trying to fool Iowa voters by convincing them the mandate is needed, giving them more power. He also has said that he would end all energy subsidies, though America’s Renewable Future has argued that his plan won’t get rid of them all.

It’s not clear how much the controversy will affect Republican caucusgoers. The renewable fuel industry has said it supports about 73,000 jobs in the state, and Iowa politicians on a bipartisan basis have argued in its favor. But government subsidies of all kinds have been targeted by conservatives this election season.

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